Grant’s dad had been fourteen years old for the past three weeks. Today was the anniversary of his remission, though he was demented, not able to understand where he was or why he was important to the people who visited day-to-day, week to week. Many of the children were hoping for pneumonia, and it seemed as though he were going that way. No one said what they thought, something Aled would regularly get angry about when he was lucid. Now in his bed at home he reached numbly and blindly back through the years, existed in two places at once, struggled to keep his head above a dark, deep tide somewhere.
“I…I was embarrassed,” he began.
“Yes?” Grant leaned forward. Any time his father spoke he was jarred with a sudden, powerful and instinctual hope that he had gotten better, that they could see eye to eye and speak normally—at least once more before it was all over. He held back tears and gritted his teeth.
“I was teaching the radios, it was important…”
“When was this?”
“Ages ago,” he said, “weeks back.”
His father shut his eyes. It was a shameful memory, some splinter he was pulling out from under his skin. Something he was eager to expel.
“I thought I was doing well, but every time I called through I received nothing back. I said it was just the snow storm, but it wasn’t, it was the volume, the volume was down and the whole time they were responding. Everyone laughed when they found out. Later that day you told me I had to deliver that timber to the Earls.”
Grant studied his father’s eyes, red, with a peculiar, sharp bulge one only noticed at an angle. His scalp and face flushed red too—he was holding his breath, trying to prevent the tears that were damned behind his eyes from escaping.
“It’s okay,” Grant said, Grant who at that moment was his father’s father, a man he had never met.
“I…didn’t tie them down properly, they fell off the side of the truck and I wasn’t strong enough to put them all back on myself. That’s why I went missing those days. Nothing was stolen. There was no mystery, I just dragged those trees into the forest, I wanted the woods to cover me. I was so embarrassed.”
“I forgive you,” Grant said stoically, paternally, as though to his own son. His father held his breath a few moments longer then sighed quietly, tears spilling out onto his rough and unshaven grey cheeks where some stuck and glittered in the light of the television. He closed his eyes and settled back into his pillow; asleep, relieved, forgetting.